Wendy Turner is seeking another term as a trustee on the SD5 board of education in the upcoming local government elections.
Turner has spent a lifetime in the public education system and was formerly the president of the Cranbrook and District Teachers’ Association.
“What I found out from my last term was that I absolutely love advocating for children and their educational programs,” said Turner. “Every child in Cranbrook, all the way to the Alberta border, so it’s a huge job, it’s got more facets than I ever believed possible…but I was extremely lucky and grateful to be with colleagues on the last board that took the time to mentor me, to show me the broad width and expanse of the role of trustee..”
With one term under her belt, Tuner says she has a much broader view of the interconnected public education systems overseen by elected trustees.
She notes the proper funding of the public system is one of the biggest challenges facing the local school district.
“I think the biggest issue is funding,” said Turner, “for all of the various programs that we want students to have the opportunity to explore and help them make decisions about their lives and careers as adults. Costs have risen and that means we’re putting more money into utilities..it’s never ending and sometimes we have to end up making very tough decisions about what we can keep and what we can’t afford.
“Those decisions are never easy but our board is extremely open and inclusive. Everyone has their say on any budgetary decision and once we’ve voted on it and made decisions, we all stand behind it, and that’s what I really loved about the board this past term.”
For years, the Southeast Kootenay school district has been experiencing challenges with galvanizing provincial action on big ticket capital items, such as the replacement of Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook, or the expansion of Isabella Dicken Elementary School in Fernie, which was finally addressed two years ago with an $8.4 million commitment from the province.
That project began this past summer and is expected to be completed in February 2023, including 80 seats in four classrooms, an expanded library, a multipurpose room, resource room, a space for smaller group learning and two mechanical rooms.
“Advocating for capital project funding is an experience in patience,” said Turner.
“We continue to advocate, we continue to hire consultants and get reports that will help our case go forward. We’ve done everything as a board that we can to promote and focus on those two very schools — Isabella Dicken and Mount Baker. We are hopeful we are moving up the list and perhaps my grandchildren will be able to see a new Mount Baker [school] in Cranbrook.”
Over the last four years, two of which included an unprecedented global pandemic, Turner reflected on the inclusive nature of problem-solving COVID-19 challenges with a special committee made up of local stakeholders.
“Our district did very well with the help of all of our stakeholders and we considered that a high priority in School District 5,” she said.